How Big Food Uses Data Analytics to Understand Customer Preferences

Big food corporations like Nestle, PepsiCo, and Kraft Heinz collect vast troves of data on customers and employ advanced analytics to uncover detailed insights into consumer preferences and behavior. This gives them a competitive edge in product development, marketing, and supply chain optimization. Most all of the major players are investing heavily in data mining and analytical software to derive actionable insights. Through analytics, big food companies break down their customer base into precise segments based on:

  • Demographics like age, gender, income, education level, household size
  • Psychographics including personality, values, attitudes, interests, lifestyles
  • Purchase history encompassing what, how much, when, how often people buy certain items

This enables a nuanced understanding of preferences across factors like taste, packaging, portion sizes, nutritional content, allergens, ingredients, and more. Manufacturers now capture more data to produce oceans of valuable information that gets funneled into predictive models. They gather data in ever increasing ways including: analyzing social media conversations to identify new food trends, surveying shoppers in-store, placing IoT sensors on factory equipment and mining it from consumer loyalty cards.

Predicting Shifts in Consumer Demand

Big food corporations rely heavily on predictive analytics to forecast future shifts in consumer demand. By crunching years of historical purchasing data along with current sales numbers, competitive intelligence, market research, and industry trend analysis, data scientists can build models that predict fluctuations in the popularity of certain flavors, ingredients, packaging types, and products. Companies can use predictive analytics to detect shifts buying patterns so that they can reposition some brands and make acquisitions if needed.

These insights into their customers help big food companies optimize their complex, global supply chains – chains that involve sourcing thousands of ingredients across hundreds of countries. Predictive analytics and demand forecasting give them greater agility to react to expected changes in desired product volumes and availability.

By anticipating consumer preferences 6-12 months out, food manufacturers can finely calibrate production schedules, inventory levels, logistics, warehouses, and more for efficiency. The most sophisticated of companies can leverage data on retail conditions, purchase trends, pricing, promotions, weather variability, and even sporting event schedules to help them with their product inventory planning.

Concerns Over Data Ethics

There are ethical questions around consumer privacy, informed consent, and responsible usage when it comes to collecting and analyzing all this data. Ideally, manufacturers should have in place detailed data governance measures to ensure transparency in how they collect, analyze, and act upon customer data through things like privacy policies, opt-in agreements, data protection certifications, and internal data ethics training. Whether the average consumer understands these measures or even how information they provide – or is culled about them – is debatable.

Data analytics provides is an important tool to help manufacturers stay ahead of competitors so it’s likely that the global food analytics sector will likely continue its rapid expansion as analytics and AI mature.